A pedigreed, spacious machine with dirt-road abilities

REVIEW | Subaru Forester Sport is a family steed with rugged soul

15 February 2024 - 10:07
By Brenwin Naidu
Sport trimmings add dynamic appeal to Forester.
Image: Supplied Sport trimmings add dynamic appeal to Forester.

The original Subaru Forester was among pioneers of the family-sized sport-utility vehicle genre. Blending wagon-like styling and versatility with a tough all-wheel drive chassis, it appealed to types with a more outdoorsy constitution. In its latest guise, the Forester has grown up, adopting a more sophisticated persona – but not at the expense of the values that made its forebears so distinctive in the market.

So, you still get all-wheel drive, a practical estate-type body and ground clearance sufficient for pursuits beyond the urban jungle.
Sowetan Motoring recently had a turn in the Forester Sport model, taking position in the middle of the line-up. It is priced at R713,000. The standard 2.0i-S ES version costs R683,000; while the range-topping 2.5i-S ES goes for R764,000. All models carry a five-year/150,000km warranty and three-year/75,000km maintenance plan.

Visually, the Sport model is set apart by rather obvious cues. Take in the orange and black trim elements. Its 18-inch wheels are finished in glossy black paint, versus the traditional satin silver approach of its siblings. On the inside, the Sport mirrors the exterior black-on-orange scheme, in addition to boasting seats clad in water-repelling upholstery – this is exclusive to the model. The material has a durable look and a textured feel.

Interior is comfortable and attractively finished.
Image: Supplied Interior is comfortable and attractively finished.

It had been a while since we had a go in a Subaru. Getting reacquainted with certain brand hallmarks made for a pleasant experience. For example, pressing the start button and hearing a burbling boxer motor come to life. Not many cars retain a horizontally opposed layout in this day and age – Subaru is up there with Porsche, among brands that still offer boxer power sources.

The four-cylinder unit powering the Forester is normally aspirated, displacing 2,498cc, producing 136kW and 239Nm. Performance is fair, given the application, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 9.5 seconds. Some buyers may yearn for the benefit of forced-induction, or hanker for those old days where Subaru used to offer a fantastic diesel motor.  

Depressing the accelerator flat produces an encouraging thrum, typical of boxer engine layouts. It can sound strained at times, but this is owed more to the work of the continuously variable automatic transmission, with its simulated ratios. The brand calls it Lineartronic.

Fuel consumption ranged between 9l/100km and 11l/100km.   A 220mm ground clearance means you can handle dirt roads with confidence. Factor in the grippy all-wheel drive system, as well as the relatively plump 225/55 tyres; and you have a vehicle suited to just about every environment the average family would tread.

X-Mode settings lend an edge on dirt roads.
Image: Supplied X-Mode settings lend an edge on dirt roads.

From pot-holed Johannesburg roads, to dusty tracks on provincial outskirts, the Forester tackles it all. The dedicated X-Mode off-road settings optimises the vehicle for more demanding sojourns. 

Another benefit of the boxer engine layout is the lower centre of gravity and more even weight distribution over the front axle. None of its rivals come close to handling with the same level of poise, the Forester complies rather well when a more spirited driving approach is taken. It gives a rather assured sense of being grafted-down to the asphalt. Its electrically assisted power steering system has a noticeable sense of weight dialled in. 

Opening the electronically operated tailgate reveals a boot capacity of 520l, folding the second seating row down expands space to 1,060l. In terms of standard kit, there is nothing to be in want of. The Forester is standard with a panoramic roof, climate control, as well as a comprehensive touchscreen infotainment system with clarity and ease-of-use that is dramatically superior to systems previously featured in Subaru models.

Luggage compartment offers 520l, pictured here is the 2.5i-S ES.
Image: Supplied Luggage compartment offers 520l, pictured here is the 2.5i-S ES.

On the safety front, it boasts seven airbags, plus the Subaru EyeSight suite of driver assistance functions. That includes a pre-collision warning system, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. 

Subaru owners are known for their loyalty and testing the Forester, we were reminded of why that is. It is a complete package with a robust feel – and at the price, it makes for a rather compelling prospect in the busy C-segment sport-utility vehicle arena.